Varieties Of Beans
On a whim, as I sat down to write this recipe for this week’s newsletter, I idly did a Google search on “how many varieties of beans are there”. The answer quite surprised me. “Currently, the world gene banks hold about 40,000 bean varieties (emphasis mine), although only a fraction are mass-produced for regular consumption” says Wiki. The page also states that some kinds of raw beans contain a harmful and tasteless toxin which must be removed by cooking. However, under cooked beans may be more toxic than raw beans, and cooking beans, without bringing them to a boil (like in a slow cooker at temperatures well below boiling) may not destroy toxins. Wow, seriously!!? Wiki is a fund of information….some good to know…..others, meh….I will pass. The link above has some interesting information on how to avoid flatulence after consuming beans….I won’t iterate them here, but do go check if you are curious.
This week’s recipe uses broad beans (also known as fava bean, Chikkudukaya in Telugu, Valor or Val Papdi in Gujarathi, and Chapparada Avarae in Kannada). It is a delicacy in several parts of the world. I have eaten these beans in a sweet-ish dish in Egypt, where our guide had pointed out that beans are one of the oldest and longest cultivated crop and they have found references to beans in ancient hieroglyphics.
This vine, growing in my mom’s garden hardly needs any care. Especially during the months of January and February, it produces in abundance and of course being used to cooking seasonal produce, this would end up on our table more often than I liked! If you are interested in this easy-to-grow vine, here’s some additional information.
Broad beans have a stronger flavor than regular green beans. Broad bean seeds (that are taken out of the pods) are more popular in western cuisines; they are either cooked when they’re fresh and green or they are dried and cooked in different recipes. Fresh broad beans are mostly used in salads because of their taste, texture and protein content.
You can find these beans in Indian grocery stores. They are extremely easy to grow in the United States as well. Just make sure you provide it a tall and strong fence or trellis to creep up on. The vine is a vigorous grower and will produce prolifically, so you need to be on top of things (pun intended). The seeds, as the bean matures, are really yum. My mom will break off the ends of each mature bean (and discard), remove the strings, split the bean to remove the seeds and then chop the beans, sans seeds. The seeds and the chopped beans can then be cooked together, or you could save the seeds to add to another dish. Either way, the seeds are to die for!
If you own a pressure cooker or an Instant Pot, you can pressure cook or steam the beans and release pressure quickly (they call it QR in the IP lingo). This reduces the cooking time drastically, since these beans tend to be tougher than the french beans.
There are a variety of Indian recipes with this bean but this particular dish that’s cooked along with eggplant is one of my favorites. I used to avoid eating this dish when I was young but this has really grown on me over the years. Eggplant complements the flavor and texture of broad beans when it is cooked this way. Blended ginger and green chilies add that extra dash of spice and flavor that makes this recipe so delicious.
Check our Instant Pot video of this recipe with just broad bean (no eggplant):
Broad beans are rich in potassium, which can have beneficial effects on blood pressure. Eating foods rich in potassium is the best way of maintaining healthy potassium levels, rather than taking supplements.
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Broad Bean Eggplant Sauté
- 1/2 Pound Broad Beans
- 1/4 Pound Eggplant
- 1 Teaspoon Ginger Ground
- 1 Chili Green Chili Pepper Large, ground
- 8 Leaves Curry Leaves
- 1 Chili Dry Red Chili
- 1/2 Teaspoon Mustard Seeds
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds
- 1 Tablespoon Urad Dal
- 1 Tablespoon Chana Dal
- 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
- 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt or to taste
- Cut eggplant, beans and set them aside along with ginger and green chili pepper. If the beans are mature, you can pinch off the two ends, remove the stringy part, before chopping. Set seasoning ingredients( mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dry red chili, urad dal, chana dal and curry leaves) aside in a plate or bowl. Blend ginger, green chili pepper in a blender and transfer to a bowl.
- Heat oil in a thick bottom pan. Saute the seasoning ingredients, add the blended ginger and chili paste and mix well.
- Add eggplant and beans, salt, stir well and leave a lid on; cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables soften.
- Transfer to serving bowl.